The Allender Center’s Rachael Clinton at Ecclesia Church


Rachael Clinton, a member of The Allender Center’s Teaching Staff and Assistant Director of Admissions at The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology, recently delivered the weekend sermon for our friends at Ecclesia Church in Houston, Texas. Her words from that weekend are vital to the work we do at The Allender Center, so we’re excited to feature them here.

In her message, “Hope for the Disordered Imagination,” Rachael looks at how our imagination—the framework through which we understand and engage the world—is shaped by our life experiences, including our families, culture, religious experiences, and trauma. “None of us starts with a blank slate,” says Rachael. “The places you have experienced harm, betrayal, disappointment, terror, abandonment, loss—all these categories impact your imagination.”

What does it look like to live with a gospel imagination, a framework that is shaped by the ongoing work of the kingdom of God? “The kingdom has come, and yet suffering still exists for a season,” says Rachael. “We are the people that live boldly into the tension of this already/not yet kingdom.”

Somewhere along the way, that kingdom imagination gets disordered, and we begin to feel that we are unable or unworthy to love and be loved in the way that God created us for. Rachael shares how her own trauma, and her experience of being stalked by fear throughout her life, left her with a disconnect between what she had been taught about God and what she felt in her own embodied experience.

If our understanding of God only addresses the eternity to come, then we might be left to believe that God has little to say about our current struggles with fear, isolation, shame, and trauma. To confront that idea, Rachael turns to Romans 8, where Paul writes about the difference between a spirit of slavery and a spirit of adoption.

“I don’t know what your mess is. I don’t know the places where you feel terror. I don’t know the places where you feel cut off from God. I don’t know the places where you feel a sense that God is withholding from you. But I know that because you’re human they’re there. And I know from my own experience […] that it’s not anxiety that makes me a slave to fear. It’s the moment that I let it turn my heart against myself, the moment I let that cut me off from life, from community, from connection.”

We are so proud of the work being done by Rachael and the rest of the Teaching Staff, and we think Rachael’s message is crucial: Your trauma is real. Your messiness is real. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t step into meaningful, healing connection with God and others—in the here and now, not just the ever after. May Rachael’s words be an invitation for you to know the truth and goodness of God in the beautiful messiness of who you are.

You can listen to the full message here. And we’ll be back at Ecclesia on October 3 for the Design of Desire conference with Dan Allender—more information and registration are available here.